Moments after referee David Llaurado raised Nicola Adams’ left arm to signal her victory in a semifinal bout of the 51 kg women's flyweight boxing event in the London Olympics on Wednesday, Manipur was plunged in darkness. Literally and metaphorically.
Punching above her weight, the North Eastern State’s — and India’s — favourite daughter, Mary Kom had just lost the chance to advance to the final of the competition, losing 6-11 to the younger and taller Briton. Manipur normally gets electricity for just a few hours a day but the authorities kept the grid running long enough to allow Mary's fans to watch the match live. Seconds after she lost, the lights went out.
Friends and relatives who had gathered at the five-time world champion's village, Langol, in Imphal West, bore her defeat to a quick-footed opponent with a heavy heart, although they put up a brave face.
Mary's father Tonpa, who had travelled all the way from his village Kangathei to watch the match with friends and family in Imphal became emotional. But he soon recovered, saying, “What has happened has happened. I am sad that she lost the silver, but am very, very happy that she won the bronze.”
On the streets of Manipur, men, women and children wore their feelings on their faces. For, the ones that had gathered in front of television screens seemed to have been certain in their minds that they would be celebrating a famous win for their champion pugilist.
Mary Kom's entry into the Olympics united the Nagas, Meiteis and Kukis of Manipur who swept aside their political differences and collectively prayed for her victory, says Worngam Siro, a Tangkhul Naga who runs a retail shop in the city.
“All of us feel very proud because such a talented boxer has achieved so much from our small State. All the Koms and Kukis and Meiteis are my brethren because we are the same,” he said.
This was Mary's second loss to Nicola. The Manipuri mother of two had earlier lost to her in the quarterfinals of the last world championship in a tournament that was the qualifying event for the Olympics.
Even though Mary is a five-time world champion in the 45 kg, 46 kg and 48 kg categories, she had to fight well above her weight at the Olympics in the 51 kg (flyweight) event and she had had to train specifically for the higher weight category.
“Whether she lost or won, does not matter. But she has put Manipur on the map of the world, and we are extremely proud of her,” said Satyananda Meitei, one of her fans.
“This is a game and such things happen,” said another fan with tears in his eyes.
Despite formidable odds, Mary worked hard to reach this far. “But all is not lost, there will be a next time,” said Satyananda.
Ibomcha Singh, who coached Mary, said she had reached thus far through dedication, determination and discipline.